Fall has always been soul-filling yet overwhelming for me. First, the natural beauty around me just fills me up with joy. But then, the pressure starts building with a string of festivals and holidays both Indian and American that we try to celebrate as best as we can.
When I was young, it felt liberating during the festival season - no school thanks to national holidays; all friends and neighbors celebrate together so it is hard not to get into the spirit; it was one big long party interrupted by a few school days on and off... of course, we kids always hoped that monsoons will strike as well and give us more school closures...
However, over the last quarter century, it has been difficult to keep up that tradition of celebrating Indian festivals and holidays. I still celebrate as many as I can to connect my kids with my roots and pass down some traditions, which they may outgrow and reject as they get older.. and that's their choice.
Deepavali, the Festival of Lights, however, is not optional. Since we celebrate in a non-denominational way, with lighting of as many lamps and candles around the house as possible - inside and outside - while the kids sing "Down with Darkness, Up with Light" and some other Sanskrit slokas I have them repeat after me, it seems like a fantastic way to integrate their mixed cultural heritages in as harmonious a way as possible.
What's a festival without special foods, right? Each Indian festival comes with its own prescribed menu. Deepavali is filled with sweets and savories of all kinds.
Deepavali is also about giving - house help, vegetable vendor, rickshaw-man, random folks in need - small acts of kindness like offering new clothes, special sweets and gifts... it's what makes the holiday special.